NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup Preview: Jimmie Johnson

Christopher LeoneSenior Analyst ISeptember 15, 2012

JOLIET, IL - SEPTEMBER 14:  Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe's Kobalt Tools Chevrolet, looks on from his car during practcie for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway on September 14, 2012 in Joliet, Illinois.  (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

Every day here at Bleacher Report, we'll be counting down the 12 drivers in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup by posting two driver previews, breaking down how they got in and what they're going to do with their berth. We'll only post one today, for second place driver Jimmie Johnson, with the last preview coming tomorrow.

JIMMIE JOHNSON, #48 Lowe's Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports

CHASE POSITION: 2nd, 2009 points (3 wins)

MAKING THE CHASE: Johnson ranked second in points after Bristol, putting him among the four drivers who solidified a Chase position there. He did so by finishing second at Bristol, jumping from fourth in points, after leading 52 of 500 laps.

LAST 10 RACES: Three top-five finishes for Johnson (first at Indianapolis, second at Bristol, third at Watkins Glen) have been offset by three finishes of 27th or worse, including a 34th at Atlanta and 36th at Daytona. In that span, Johnson hasn't been able to back up any of his top five finishes with anything better than 14th. His average finish in that span has been a solid but not spectacular 14.3.

LAST YEAR'S CHASE: 2011 marked the first time since 2005 that Johnson failed to take home the Chase championship. Finishes of second and first at Dover and Kansas went for naught when Johnson crashed at Charlotte to fall from third to eighth in points. With an average finish of 15.3, he finished sixth in points.

AT CHASE TRACKS: Besides having won one in four Chase races all-time, Johnson boasts average finishes of 10.0 or better at seven of the 10 current Chase tracks. It's easier to list the exceptions (Charlotte, Homestead and Talladega) than the rule (everywhere else, led by a 5.3 at Phoenix and a 5.8 at Martinsville).

OUTLOOK: For the first time in a long time, Johnson enters a Chase without having a championship to defend. But don't expect that to act as a deterrent for the five-time Sprint Cup champion, who likely welcomes this year as an opportunity to prove that he can still run up front. Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus are the all-time masters of the Chase format, and they're fired up to prove they've still got what it takes to win.

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